Sunday, December 15, 2013

You Gotta Have a Little Hope!

While I'm still depressed about the cancellation of Happy Endings (I'll get over it when I'm good and ready, people), I'm happy to say our favorite group of friends from Chicago have been showing up everywhere lately. No one has benefitted more from Happy's untimely departure than Fox, a network that currently has two of its stars occupying supporting roles in their Tuesday night line-up. Adam Pally is killing it on The Mindy Project as Dr. Peter Prentice, the overconfident frat boy OBGYN (who is basically Max if he were straight and had his life together) and Damon Wayans Jr. is back as Coach, breathing new life into what was, up until his return, a pretty uneven season of New Girl.

So glad you're back in the loft, Coach!

This got me thinking, what other Fox shows could benefit from some Happy Endings love? I immediately pictured Elisha Cuthbert as a new Howdy's cashier or a long lost Chance cousin on Raising Hope and my mind was off and running with ideas. It then occurred to me that I haven't talked much about this unsung hero of Friday night TV here on the blog, and it was time to break it down to the non-believers and share why Raising Hope is a must-watch.

Ok, so here's the premise: A guy gets a serial killer pregnant and ends up raising their baby with his crazy parents and great grandmother and...Wait! Stop! Don't run away! Believe me, it sounds insane (and it is) but this show is so much more than what it seems.
Raising Hope is honestly a delight to watch. It's consistently funny, and smarter than most things on TV, plus with its perfect blend of sweetness and insanity, things never get too treacly or too unrelatable. It's basically a show about a close family who love each other but express that love in some (UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT) strange ways. This show's bonkers-quotient is part of what makes it so great, but believe me, you'll be tearing up at the end of some episodes just like the rest of us ol' softies once you get invested.


In a nutshell, the show centers around Hope's father, the artistically talented and sweet grocery store clerk, Jimmy (played by the adorable Lucas Neff), his eccentric and still completely in-love parents Burt and Virginia (the best couple on TV, Garrett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton), and his slightly senile great-grandmother Maw-Maw (Cloris Leachman). Jimmy ends up SPOILER ALERT marrying his love interest of three seasons, Sabrina (Shannon Woodward), a fellow cashier who forsakes her wealthy but distant family for a life in Natesville with the Chances.

Sabrina may have started out as our audience surrogate, but we quickly learn that she has her own Chance-like quirks just like the rest of us. For example, I love that the show still shows her sleeping with a pair of pantyhose over her head to keep spiders from crawling in her ears (a fear from childhood that I totally respect), but they don't even need to acknowledge it anymore! Like Virginia's many malaprops or Jimmy's stress induced eyebrow hair eating, that's just another little thing that adds to her character and the overall mythology of the show. It's those funny details that really make the town of Natesville feel real and fully developed, and as far as perfect small town wackiness goes, only Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow can compare to the large community Hope has built around its central cast.

Keep an eye out for episodes with Kate Micucci (left) of Garfunkel and Oates fame as Sabrina's singing cousin. 

Both Hope and it's kindred spirit Bob's Burgers (a missed opportunity for a great Fox comedy block if you ask me) need to be talked about more, not only because they're hilarious and should have bigger audiences, but because they may be the only shows on TV that don't depict working class life as a major Depress-Fest. Their characters work hard, face money challenges, and want more out of life, that's for sure, but their shows don't look down on them as morons or try to make us feel bad for them by any means. The Chance's and the Belcher's are just regular families doing fun, sometimes dumb things like all of our regular families do. Neither is meant to be a Honey Boo-Boo-esque gawk session where the audience is meant to get some sick pleasure from judging their lifestyles either (and if we're being honest, the Chance, Belcher, and Boo-Boo-Thompson families are having a hell of a lot more fun than the rest of us). Instead, on Hope, the joy comes from watching a family deal with their financial troubles in increasingly creative ways while never harping too much on what they don't have.

It's also kind of amazing how a show as inherently wacky as this one can depict so truthfully Sabrina's challenges involving raising her adopted daughter; she desperately wants to reject her own cold upbringing and be a better mother than her own, yet she also has to stand her ground against this semi-enmeshed family when it comes to some of their weirder habits and thoughts about raising kids. Burt and Virginia also have to admit their teenage parenting mistakes and reveal the lies they told to Jimmy when he was growing up in order to be better for Hope, but that doesn't mean they change in unrealistic ways - no matter what, they're still the same couple who hunted down a sexually assaulting squirrel, pretended to be lawyers, and broke Maw-Maw out of a nursing home together. 

On a side note, if I ever find someone who gets me as much as Burt and Virginia inherently get each other, I will be a very happy lady. 

If all that mushy family stuff doesn't do it for you, just remember this show has Greg Garcia's twisted sense of humor throughout (fans of his other underrated gem, My Name Is Earl, will love spotting the many guest cameos), and some of the best theme episodes around. So what are you waiting for? Start catching up on Netflix now! When you've blown through the first three seasons, check out back-to-back new episodes every week on Fox, Fridays at 9PM

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get my onesie on and start decorating for Christmas! 
Happy Holidays Everyone! See you all in two weeks for my end of the year TV countdown!

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